Trump’s taxes. Yes, it is really bad for him.

As much as Trump seems to be teflon, he’s really not.  Are any of the “deplorables” going to change their minds.  Unlikely, but Trump has shown little ability to expand his support behind 40% of the electorate and this sure as hell doesn’t help.  I was explaining to my wife earlier today that this is important because of how it will drive the ongoing media narrative.  This tax issue had been woefully undercovered.  Not anymore.  And much like the negative drip, drip, drip of Hillary’s emails, I suspect this will have a similar quality.  Here’s Josh Marshall with similar thoughts and a nice analogy to boot:

In itself the revelation is somewhere between very damaging and catastrophic. But that is almost a secondary question. The real issue is this: at the moment Donald Trump is clearly behind and there are little more than 30 days before the election. He needs a decisive shift in the race and he has very little time to accomplish that. Regardless of its specific impact, the tax story will probably take at least a week for the campaigns and the press to litigate. And that’s a week Trump simply doesn’t have to spare. In football terms it’s like being down two touchdowns with only two or three minutes to go and you turn the ball over to the other team. If they score, its fatal. But even if they don’t it’s almost as bad because they’ll run down time you don’t have.

Others say, “Well, it doesn’t matter. His supporters won’t care.” No, they probably won’t. But that’s not relevant. His supporters make up less than 40% of the electorate. Alone they get Trump a shattering defeat in Goldwater/Mondale territory. Right now Trump needs to hold wavering anti-Trump (but more anti-Hillary) Republicans and make serious gains with loosely-affiliated voters in swing demographics like suburban, married white women, college educated whites of both genders, etc. Saying he’s ‘smart’ not to pay any taxes gives feral Trumpers something to yell about. It has very little traction outside the committed Trump camp.

And there’s a decent chance we could learn worse.  Or, certainly, that Trump is hiding worse.  Ezra:

Here’s the thing I can’t get over about the New York Times’s bombshell story on Donald Trump’s tax returns: they don’t actually know what’s in his tax returns.

Look at their headline again. “Donald Trump Tax Records Show He Could Have Avoided Taxes for Nearly Two Decades, The Times Found.” The word “could” is doing a lot of work there.

Reread the first sentence. “Donald J. Trump declared a $916 million loss on his 1995 income tax returns, a tax deduction so substantial it could have allowed him to legally avoid paying any federal income taxes for up to 18 years.” “Could” is doing all the work there, too. It’s also possible that Trump paid taxes in all of those years!

All the Times has is three pages of Trump’s records from 1995. Everything else is informed speculation, extrapolation, and the word “could,” which appears again and again through the article.

Think about how dangerous that was for the paper. Trump could have released his tax returns and proven them wrong. Trump could have shown their speculation to be mere speculation, and used it as a cudgel to discredit their reporting on his campaign. The Times was far, far out on a limb.

But the Times bet correctly. Trump still isn’t releasing his returns. And here’s what that means: whatever is in his returns is worse than what the New York Times is telling the world is in his returns. The Trump campaign has decided it prefers the picture the Times is painting — a picture where Trump didn’t pay taxes for 18 years — to the picture Trump’s real records would paint.

What is in those returns? [italics Ezra; bold is mine]

John Cassidy:

Even now, he might seek to brazen it out. But his campaign is also trying out the “genius” line, to see if it gets any traction. If it does—if Trump’s supporters react to the new revelations with admiration rather than outrage—Trump might well go ahead and release at least some of his tax returns. That is what some of his associates have been advising him to do for weeks.

The problem with this strategy should be obvious. Far from demonstrating that Trump is a “genius” or a “highly-skilled businessman,” the 1995 returns confirm what longtime observers have known for years: earlier in his career, at least, Trump was a terrible businessman. He borrowed billions of dollars to build casinos and buy overpriced trophy properties, such as the Plaza Hotel and the Eastern Air Lines Shuttle. His businesses lost almost all of this money, and some of the biggest ones, including the Plaza, were forced to seek bankruptcy protection. Trump personally was only saved from the humiliation of being declared bust by the fact that his bankers believed they would get more of their money back by throwing him a lifeline.

That’s what they did, and Trump slowly rehabilitated himself. But his comeback was due less to any innate entrepreneurial talent than to a recovery in the property market and his ability to sell himself as a success story despite his financial problems. Indeed, Trump’s real skill has always been as a self-promoter and flimflam man rather than as a creator of successful companies. To compare him to Steve Jobs is a joke, and to compare him to Churchill is perhaps the topper.

And an NBC news analysis on Trump’s worst week ever:

One: That his refusal to release his taxes suggested he was concealing something important. Two: That his returns might show his business acumen was overstated. Three: That he paid little or no taxes despite his vast wealth.

And it lent credence to her larger argument that Trump is a heartless scrooge who left a trail of financial destruction on his path to wealth, and who according to the Times even refused to check off a box on his tax form to donate to a veterans’ memorial fund.

As if that wasn’t enough, Trump has a long history of both bragging about his efforts to avoid paying taxes while shaming others for paying too little

The combination of multiple damaging stories, all made dramatically worse by the candidate’s impulsive response, may be without precedent. It’s as if Dukakis were photographed riding in the tank, saw the mocking news coverage, then climbed back into the tank and drove cross-country with Willie Horton riding shotgun as his own staff begged him to pull over. [emphasis mine]

Oh, and any other week, Trump’s total meltdown in PA would be a big story.  This week, it’s just background.  But, read it, you should.  Trust me.



About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

4 Responses to Trump’s taxes. Yes, it is really bad for him.

  1. R. Jenrette says:

    Releasing his income taxes could put the cherry on top of the cake of Trumps’ financial shenanigans if they showed that not only did he not pay any taxes but he made minor if any charitable contributions in spite of his huge no federal taxes income.
    All for one and that one is me!

  2. rgbact says:

    Hmmm, I read the whole thing and not much details. Just like watching Morning Joe today….entire discussion over non facts. Then we have handwringing over a model being told to lose weight. Whatta campaign this is.

    • Steve Greene says:

      For a supposed non Trump lover, you are quite the Trump apologist.

      • rgbact says:

        Nah. When anti-Trumpsters go overboard though, it actually can help him. He’s plenty clueless on his own…without heading down the birther and Miss Universe rabbit holes. I never defend him though..Just remarking on the sad state of the campaign.

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